Whilst I’m the first person to extol the benefits of Social Media and Content Marketing, I’m also at the front of the queue to highlight the benefits of ‘live marketing’ through speaking, running seminars, hosting workshops and attending networking events.

Back in 2003, I wrote a book called Successful Seminar Selling, which at its core explains the importance of getting out there so that people can see the whites of your eyes. An all too unexpected benefit of seminars, speaking and live marketing is that more often than not there’s someone in the room who will, when you least expect it, open doors for you.

As a professional speaker I find this happens with amazing regularity. But doors can unexpectedly open with Social Media too.

Many column inches have been written about the value or otherwise of having a large following on Social Media – be it Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. But I have always believed that with a larger network, the likelihood of serendipity kicking in is dramatically increased.

And so it did last week. I was visiting Edinburgh in Scotland and posted on Facebook that I was speaking at an event there. It was a great engagement for a household name brand, with a receptive and warm audience.

Whilst I was speaking, little did I know that another household name with its head office in Edinburgh had seen my Facebook post and sent me an email asking if I had time to pop in for a quick chat before I headed to the airport.  What’s more, this meeting was with a specialised team that I had not previously known about.

As it turned out, this short chat lit the fuse for potentially one of the most exciting relationships I’ve ever had in business.

For all the careful targeting that we encourage people to do with Social Media, it’s important not to forget how important serendipity can be – that chance moment when the stars align and magic happens. 

Of course, it wasn’t a chance moment. Had I not posted on Facebook that I was in Edinburgh that day, the second meeting simply wouldn’t have taken place. 

When I speak at events or consult with leaders and brands, a key feature of my training is that in Social Media, stories and ideas are more stimulating for people than tweets and posts about products and services, often leaving many thinking more deeply about what exactly they should post about on Social Media to attract attention. Those in regulated industries really struggle with this as their first thoughts often head for the perceived inevitable compliance issues.

I’m a great believer in the good old fashioned concept that ‘People buy People’. They always did and they always will - that’s why seminar selling and live marketing works so well. But people buying people also works well on Social Media – in fact it’s the cornerstone of great engagement.

So where should you start if you want to move your Social Media to a more people-centric strategy?

Easy - how about starting with yourself and your colleagues?  Post pictures of where you and they are today, but don’t just give us a picture of your breakfast - think which of your followers or subscribers would be most in sync with your post and call them out by name. 

And if you don’t know who is most likely to be in sync with your posts, use a tool like SocialRank to gain greater insights into your followers. But go beyond that too; don’t just see your followers as names on a list – try to get to know them. Run a 'Social Media audit' of your followers - find out what their interests are outside work; keep a note in your CRM system and then target your tweets and posts accordingly. You’ll be amazed at how much more engagement you get when you mention people by name – particularly if your post includes something like a photo which resonates with them at a personal level.

Of course, no sales or marketing director is ever going to design their Social Media strategy around serendipity, but it is a factor which is important and can have immense value. And you can increase the likelihood of it happening - I distinctly remember when I was a young sales rep that the more prospects I went to see, the more business I won – even when I knew we didn’t have the cheapest or the best product. It seemed that just turning up and being visible was indeed a viable strategy.

Luck has its part to play, but through knowing your followers (just as you know your customers) and by being visible online, you have the potential to get far greater leverage from your Social Media activity.